The Hole in the Wall has become a popular tourist destination in the Alberni Valley, but its popularity has created some safety concerns about increased traffic and a lack of parking.
Directors with the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) have discussed the issue at multiple board meetings, but have not yet made any decisions about the development of the natural attraction.
Cherry Creek director Dianne Bodnar first brought her concerns to the board in July, asking for the topic to be brought forward to the next Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) meeting.
“The Hole in the Wall is becoming a nightmare,” she said. “It’s being advertised everywhere. It seems like whoever’s advertising this, in the tourist magazines and whatnot, really aren’t doing their homework to see—where are people going to park to see this?”
Hole in the Wall, located off of Highway 4 just outside of the City of Port Alberni, is the remnant of a water line in the form of a large hole through rockface. Because the access to the site is through private lands owned by Mosaic Forest Management, there is no parking. Visitors often park on the shoulder of a curve on Highway 4, or park in the lot across the highway at Coombs Country Candy and dodge cars on foot across three lanes of highway traffic.
Bodnar is also a member of the West Coast Rangers Black Powder Club. The club’s gun range can be accessed through a gated road off Highway 4 owned by Mosaic Forest Management, and Bodnar says parked cars have been blocking the entrance. “No parking” signs have been run over and knocked over.
“There is no room to be parking there, period,” she said. “People from out of town have no idea because their GPS tells them this is where you need to go.”
During a board meeting on Aug. 26, ACRD CAO Doug Holmes explained that the Hole in the Wall is a “tricky” topic because of the overlap between provincial, municipal and private lands.
“It is likely that in addition to addressing the parking concerns, that a specific licence agreement would be needed with Mosaic to cover trail standards and liability issues, like agreements that currently exist for the Alberni Inlet Trail and Lakeshore Trail,” said Holmes in a report to the board.
Last year, the ACRD, the province and Mosaic entered into an agreement to discuss public access to private forest lands, and Holmes said this agreement could be one avenue to discuss the development of Hole in the Wall. The ACRD could also choose to discuss it during its upcoming Strategic Planning session.
However, at this time, the ACRD board has not made the matter a priority. Board directors said on Aug. 26 that more research and a longer-term plan is needed.
City director Debbie Haggard said she would like to see Hole in the Wall eventually transformed into something a little more attractive for tourists, but added that the undertaking is just too large.
“I think the community would like to see the Hole in the Wall developed,” she said. “I’m certainly open to having us explore what exactly would be involved, and what the cost would be and what the process would be. At this time it’s just too big.”
Board chair John Jack said more discussions need to take place before a decision is made.
“I think this is something we’ll return to in the near future,” he added.
“I don’t think the Hole in the Wall is going to go away,” she said. “It’s been advertised in tourist magazines around the world. I think it’s worth investigating to see what, if anything, we can do about it.”